In any study of history, the input of those who produce it is vital. In the case of correspondence – a personal source, not intended for publication – this input is particularly special. But how can historians understand epistolary networks in an age when the epistolary art has almost disappeared?One answer, paradoxically, might be: through digital reconstruction. Increasing dissatisfaction with the digital experience has seen many returns to analogue editions of classical books, so why not analogue communication? What are letters if not – like modern social media – written conversations between ordinary people who cannot be together in person?
Our consideration of correspondence will encompass the various digital and analogue methods for recording, interpreting, and presenting a specific material document and its inherent social connections, as well as an assessment of the ways in which recent developments in digital modes of communication have influenced, disrupted, or enhanced our relationship with this traditional form. Through panel discussions and practical demonstrations we aim to bring together academics, writers, librarians, publishers, and technicians to find mutual frameworks for using this unique source as a vehicle for understanding how the digital illuminates, and perhaps even defines by contrast, what makes us human.
This one-day, interdisciplinary, student-run conference is the result of a generous award by TORCH and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, with the additional support of the Bodleian Libraries and Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute. Registration will open on May 16th. For more information, to read the Call for Posters (deadline May 13th) and to sign up to the conference mailing list, please see www.e-pistolary.net/speaking-in-absence